CORY Hill is fighting fit and ready to make a derby impact with the Dragons after 10 months of torment on the sidelines that dashed his World Cup hopes.

The Wales lock made his first appearance since February when he played the full 80 minutes in the Dragons' crucial European Challenge Cup win against Worcester last weekend.

The 27-year-old suffered an injury to his left ankle when scoring the crucial try in the Six Nations win against England on the way to a Grand Slam and then, after recovering fully, suffered a fracture in the same leg on the World Cup training camp.

Hill was still named by Warren Gatland in his squad for Japan but headed home halfway through the group stages when it became clear that his fitness race had been lost.

Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan pledged to not set the talisman firm targets – "he will have been chasing deadlines for a long time" – and was true to his word before bringing back the lock at blindside flanker against the Warriors.

Western Telegraph:

The timing couldn't be better with Hill adding international class to the pack ahead of Saturday's clash with the Scarlets at Rodney Parade (kick-off 5.15pm), which is followed by tussles with Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys.

"When I first came back I had been pushing it for a period of time, so it was about getting it fully right and coming back at 100 per cent rather than rushing again," he said.

"The plan was always to try and have a run out before the Christmas derbies, so it's perfect timing.

"These are the first ones that you look for on the calendar, the games that everybody wants to be involved in. These are the ones that you hope to peak for.

"We've got three tough derbies over Christmas and hopefully we can get a couple of victories."

Hill had to dig deep on his return when Ryan, because of torrential rain and the game being an arm-wrestle, changed from the pre-match ploy of bringing off the Wales international.

"The plan was to have 50 minutes but the weather probably changed that because it wasn't a fast game, it was more set-piece orientated," said Hill.

"When you are on you just enjoy it and I loved being back out there, 50 soon turned to 80 and it was nice to be on there at the end."

Western Telegraph:

The summer was a test of Hill's positivity with the forward battling back from the Six Nations injury, which meant he watched the wins against Scotland and Ireland from the touchline, only to suffer a fresh blow at the training camp in Switzerland.

"One Saturday in training something didn't feel quite right and we didn't pick it up as early as we probably should have," he said.

"I went for all the scans and they didn't pick it up, so you are trying to get back fit and making things worse rather than better.

"It was a frustrating process because I was thinking there was nothing wrong, but there obviously was because something wasn't right, then we finally picked it up and it was probably a little bit too late.

"The medical team in the Welsh squad are unbelievable, and the strength and conditioning coaches as well. They did everything they could but time was against me and it wasn't meant to be."

The final blow came on the day of the World Cup opener against Georgia, when Hill had a one-on-one session with former Wales hooker Huw Bennett under the watchful eye of medical boss Prav Mathema.

"I went downhill pretty fast," admitted Hill. "You try and get through certain blocks, and we had five or six, but after the second one it was pretty obvious that my time was up.

"We had Prav watching through the gym window and it was one of those awkward situations because 'Benny' didn't want to call it off and I didn't want to call it off, but it was a case of enough is enough."

"Injury is part and parcel of the game and you have to get on with them. I said all along that you have to stay as positive as you can," he continued.

"I was lucky enough to get a little taste of the World Cup experience out there with the squad, spending time in Japan and experiencing the culture and all of the good that was going on.

"It was obviously frustrating and nobody wants to get injured but as soon as it was over it was just about trying to recover and get back on the pitch as soon as possible."

Western Telegraph:

Hill has racked up 106 appearances since heading to the Dragons from Moseley in 2013, while he has been a regular in the Wales line-up with 24 caps after his debut in November 2016.

Being on the sidelines has tested the forward from Maesycoed.

"I've missed playing," he said. "You don't so much miss the Tuesday afternoons of flat-out contact sessions at a wet and windy Ystrad Mynach, but it's hard.

"You are there watching the boys play and working hard when you can't. It's pretty frustrating and I wouldn't want to be my girlfriend, living with a Cory Hill that doesn't get to play rugby.

"It's been a hard 10 months but it was nice to be back on Friday and get a win with the boys."